Web Administrator Thu 21 May 2015 updated: Fri 05 Feb 2016
Northern Ireland's stunning coastline has long been hailed as a match of anything in the world, but now Benone beach on the north coast is celebrating an achievement very few places in the world can match, having just claimed its 25th consecutive Blue Flag. The international award, which recognises first class facilities and the highest standards of water quality, was presented to Benone and nine other beaches as well as two marinas at a ceremony on Portstewart Strand.
A further ten beaches have received the UK-wide Seaside Award, which recognises resort and rural beaches with good water quality. After a difficult summer season last year, with heavy rainfall affecting water quality on a number of occasions, this is an excellent result.
Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, the environmental charity which administers the awards locally, said:
"A Blue Flag means excellence; that we can proudly say nearly half of the designated bathing waters in Northern Ireland are world class is quite an achievement. With a further ten receiving Seaside Awards, including for those beaches in more secluded beauty spots, we once again have a fantastic coastal offering for everyone who lives here and loves here as well as our growing numbers of visitors."
Minister for the Environment, Mark H Durkan, said:
"These Blue Flag and Seaside Awards show the dedication that coastal councils and the National Trust contribute to providing first class, safe and enjoyable beaches. The coast of Northern Ireland is an amazing place to visit, and these Awards demonstrate how much work has gone into promoting our excellent beaches.
"The Good Beach Summits, which we initiated in DOE, have helped to improve standards at beaches around our coast. Fantastic progress has been made and I trust that next year even more beaches and marinas will apply for these awards."
Blue Flag beaches offer the highest standard of visitor facilities including toilets, lifeguards and first aid during peak hours, and disabled access. In order to promote an inclusive atmosphere for families with small children, activities such as windsurfing are zoned and access for dogs is restricted on most Blue Flag beaches. Seaside Awards Resort beaches often have many of the same facilities as Blue Flag beaches, while Rural beaches have fewer facilities and are more unspoilt in their character. Dogs are allowed on most Seaside Award beaches as long as they are kept on leads.
Colin Neill, Tourism NI Board member said:
"Northern Ireland's stunning beaches are amongst our greatest tourism assets, and keeping them clean and safe is of the utmost importance to us. By driving standards and safeguarding our environment, these awards play a vital role in helping to showcase the natural beauty of our coastline, and in improving the overall visitor experience of incoming tourists. I am delighted that this year Northern Ireland boasts an impressive number of award winning beaches, offering an excellent choice of clean and safe places for our visitors to enjoy this summer."
With weeks of fine weather in April and May sparking thoughts of a 'barbeque summer', beaches around Northern Ireland are gearing up for an influx of visitors. To help everyone find their ideal award winning beach or marina Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and Tourism NI have launched a visitor map which lists the facilities offered at each beach and also includes suggestions for activities or attractions to make for a memorable day out. The guide will be available online, via all Tourist Information Centres, at Award beaches and from local councils.